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The FA’s appointment of Phil Neville as head coach of the women’s football nation team smacks of incompetence, disdain and a lack of foresight.
The women’s game had made amazing strides in 2017. It felt like a defining year, with the Lioness’ reaching the semi-finals in Holland – to be knocked out by the eventual winners. They had galvanised a nation, inspired girls to take up the sport and showed the true power of the female game.
That what then followed was the controversy surrounding Mark Sampson, later dismissed for inappropriate relationships prior to his time at England, blighted a promising summer.
Still, there was a hope. The vacant position was an attractive proposition for any would-be manager. The common view was that whoever took up the role simply had to be a woman.
This would not only demonstrate the improvements of women’s coaching, but would serve as greater encouragement for future generations: An all-women’s national team fighting for a nation.
Inevitably, the FA chose not to. They say that their hands were tied – they claim their search traversed 145 countries, 60 candidates and a six-name shortlist. Two of the female coaches then pulled out, according to the FA.
Naturally, then, they turned to Phil Neville, who’s name had been jovially suggesting a few weeks before at a dinner party. The FA did not see the funny side, evidently.
So the Class of 92’ franchise rolls on. David Beckham is set to unveil his new Miami MLS team, Gary Neville’s empire blossoms, Ryan Giggs has taken up the mantle at Wales and now Neville, who has never coached in the women’s game, will direct an international side with a great deal of prestige.
Further to the ludicrous decision of appointing a person who has had meagre experience is the way in which they failed to produce a comprehensive background check. Twitter users do that these days, it seems, as a host of sexist tweets dating back to 2011 emerged.
Are they grounds to sack Neville before he begins? Probably not. They were said in jest and though it is indicative of a culture of sexism, does not reflect on his ability as a coach.
Were they grounds for the FA not to hire him in the first place? Yes. Do your research – save us the scandal.
Neville is diligent, is hard-working and is industrious in his duties. He may yet make a fine coach, but the FA have handled this situation with all the care of a cumbersome giant.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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